Subway Fresh Fit 500
by Matt Taliaferro and Nathan Rush
Location: Avondale, Ariz.
Specs: 1-mile oval; Banking/Turns: 9° and 11°; Banking/Frontstretch: 3°; Banking/Backstretch: 9°
2010 Winners: Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards
2011 Race Length: 500 km/312 laps
Track Qualifying Record: 186.293 mph (Casey Mears, 2004)
Race Record: 155.912 mph (Bobby Labonte, 2000)
From the Spotter’s Stand
The desert ended droughts for both Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards last season. Newman had gone 77 races since winning the Daytona 500 in 2008 before taking the checkers — after taking two tires rather than the full four — at Phoenix in April. Meanwhile, Cousin Carl hadn’t back-flipped after a Cup win in 70 races prior to squeezing every last drop out of his fuel tank and dusting runner-up Newman by 4.77 seconds to take back-to-back Cup and Nationwide wins at the one-mile Avondale oval in November.
After winning four out of five in Phoenix, Jimmie Johnson, Chad Knaus and the 48 had a “down” year — with fifth- and third-place finishes and just 113 laps led.
Crew Chief’s Take
“Turns 1 and 2 are completely different than Turns 3 and 4 at Phoenix, which makes it difficult to find the right balance in the setup. Many teams run a short-track package with brakes that will last the duration. A dogleg in the backstretch is unique to the circuit. Abusing the right-side tires is easy to do at Phoenix, and even more so with the new car.
“Certain drivers — Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch come to mind — sort of know the tricks there. It takes a pretty talented driver to be willing to experiment out there, and Phoenix rewards the ones who find the tricks.”
Looking at Checkers: With apologies to Dover and Martinsville, this may be Jimmie Johnson’s best track.
Pretty Solid Pick: We’re not sold on the Mark Martin/Lance McGrew pairing, but they’ll be good here.
Good Sleeper Pick: The RCR boys are usually pretty tough on the flat tracks.
Runs on Seven Cylinders: You may want to steer clear of the Red Bull drivers.
Insider Tip: Denny Hamlin had the November edition of this race won until he was forced to hit pit road for a splash of gas. And after a disappointing Daytona, this team will be looking to redeem itself.
Classic Moments at PIR
For the first time in 13 years, The King returns to Victory Lane. Bobby Hamilton, driving Richard Petty’s No. 43 STP Pontiac, leads 40 laps in the 1996 Dura Lube 500 at PIR to earn his first career Cup win.
Hamilton loses the lead on pit road, falling to fourth for a lap 266 restart, but he blows by Mark Martin and Terry Labonte within seven laps, and gets by Geoff Bodine 10 laps later to secure his first of three career cup triumphs.
“I’ve told a lot of people, there’s Dale Earnhardt fans or Bill Elliott fans, but when those guys fall out of the race, they’re still Richard Petty fans,” Hamilton says. “I thought it was pretty cool to win this race for him.”